Dec 25, 2011 5:31am
Occupy Wall Street becomes highly collectible
By Cristian Salazar, Associated Press, 25 Dec 2011
NEW YORK (AP) — Occupy Wall Street may still be working to shake the notion it represents a passing outburst of rage, but some establishment institutions have already decided the movement's artifacts are worthy of historic preservation.
More than a half-dozen major museums and organizations from the Smithsonian Institution to the New-York Historical Society have been avidly collecting materials produced by the Occupy movement.
Staffers have been sent to occupied parks to rummage for buttons, signs, posters and documents. Websites and tweets have been archived for digital eternity. And museums have approached individual protesters directly to obtain posters and other ephemera.
The Museum of the City of New York is planning an exhibition on Occupy for next month.
To keep established institutions from shaping the movement's short history, protesters have formed their own archive group, stashing away hundreds of cardboard signs, posters, fliers, buttons, periodicals, documents and banners in temporary storage while they seek a permanent home for the materials.
The archives group has been approached by institutions seeking to borrow or acquire Occupy materials. Roberts said they are discussing donating the entire collection to the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University. Tamiment declined to comment.
Much of the frenzied collection by institutions began in the early weeks of the protests. In part, they were seeking to collect and preserve as insurance against the possibility history might be lost — not an unusual stance by archivists.
What appears to be different is the level of interest from mainstream institutions across a wide geographic spectrum and the new digital-only ventures that have sprung up to preserve the movement's online history.
The lavish attention poured on the liberal-leaning movement has not gone unnoticed by conservatives.
Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, blogged sarcastically under its "Corruption Chronicles" about the choice by the Smithsonian to document Occupy.
"It looks like it's taxpayer-funded hoarding, as opposed to rigorous historical collecting," said Tom Fitton, president of the organization.
The Smithsonian said its American history collection also now includes materials related to the massive tea party rally against health care reform in March 2010 and materials from the American Conservative Union's Washington, D.C., conference in February.
The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University launched OccupyArchive.org
in mid-October on a hunch that it could become historically important. So far, it has about 2,500 items in its online database, including compressed files of entire Occupy websites from around the country and hundreds of images scraped from photo-sharing site Flickr.
Curators and those in charge of collections at institutions said it was not too soon to think about preserving elements of the Occupy movement.
Staff at the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University set up a system to download and archive tweets about Occupy. So far, they have harvested more than 5 million tweets from more than 600,000 unique Twitter users. Ultimately the database will be made available to scholars, said Stewart Varner, the digital scholarship coordinator at the library.
The New York Public Library has added Occupy periodicals to its collection and is considering obtaining some protest ephemera.
And the Internet Archive, a massive online library of free digital books, audio and texts, has opened a mostly user-generated collection about the movement. As of Friday (Dec 24), their Occupy collection included more than 2,000 items, while its "Tea Party Movement" collection had fewer than 50.
Thank You!!! I worked very hard putting several OWS essays together; doing the HTML designs, layouts, and coding; and then uploading them into The Archive's OWS Collection. The U.S.A. mainstream press refuses to report, acknowledge, or discuss these issues. OWS is not "finished" - it's just beginning!
• Monte's Occupy Wall Street movie-essays
reporting peacefully from Fort Collins